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HomeMain News ( May 25, 2022 )

SCSD Struggles with Budget

By Rhonda Parfitt

As with all other PA school districts at this time of year, the hot topic at the board meeting for the Susquehanna Community School District was, of course, the 2022-2023 budget. The proposed budget total came in at 18 million dollars, increased approximately 1 million over previous years due to federal funding needing to be included. This federal funding, received through the American Rescue Plan Act, will accomplish two much-needed building remodeling projects in the coming budget year. Superintendent Bronson Stone noted that one difficulty to creating and enacting a budget this year was the lack of communication from Harrisburg, as the midterm elections had taken precedence over the discussion and passing of the state's budget. Since the school relies on the state for 70% of its funding which it cannot even be sure it is getting at this time, this puts the business office in a very precarious position. "It's horrific," Mr. Stone stated. Another difficulty to creating the budget was the lack of answers to the school's request for fuel oil bids. Gary Kiernan, Business Office Manager, stated that he had made some calls after there was no answer to the fuel oil bid and was informed that companies felt uncomfortable at this time committing to a price because of the volatile market of fuel oil. Oil is currently $6.09 per gallon and likely to increase before the Fall and Mr. Kiernan voiced that this was a "scary situation" to be in. The budget also includes a 3% tax increase, but due to the increase in the amount of the Homestead/Farmstead exclusion, many taxpayers will not see a difference in their tax bill this year.

Mr. Stone stated that he had received a phone call from leadership at the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center which informed him that all of SCHS's students had been very successful, excellent to work with, and could look forward to a bright future. Mr. Stone has a history of publicly praising the VOTECH program, and this evening was no different. He stated that he was ever so grateful to the teachers and instructors and all that they invest into this group of students to set them off on the right track in adulthood. Otherwise, Mr. Stone stated that there is a drastic shortage in substitute teachers across the board and that they are needed badly everywhere. For now, the school is left to cancel special classes and reallocate teachers to different places to cover the shortages. He also noted that with the Board's decision to apply for the National School Lunch program's Community Eligibility Provision, breakfast and lunch will continue to be free for all students.

Other board decisions included:

  • Exempting the Susquehanna Fire Department's property located in Susquehanna Depot from property tax.

  • Appointing Board member Chad Haley as the Board Treasurer for the 2022-2023 school year.

  • Allowing the University of Scranton to send students to accomplish student teaching and counseling internships.

  • Permitting Child Evangelism Fellowship of Susquehanna County to provide Released Time religious instruction for the 2022-2023 school year.

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Bluegrass Festival Back In Tunkhannock

The NEPA Bluegrass Festival will return to Lazy Brook Park in Tunkhannock Thursday, June 2 and runs thru Sunday, June 5. Fans of live bluegrass music will find familiar names on the bill, as well as some musicians making their debut at the event. This is the 15th year that Danny and Christa Stewart of Wyalusing have brought the festival to Tunkhannock. Free camping is available for those purchasing weekend passes in advance online.

The Stewarts were able to welcome festival goers back in 2021 after having to cancel the event in 2020 due to the pandemic. "It was so nice to see everyone again, and we hope you have all stayed safe and healthy," Christa stated. "Our band line-up this year might be our best ever, and there are lots of new food and craft vendors." Grovedale Winery and Paige Capo have stepped up as this year's Gold Sponsors.

From Friday through Sunday, acts are lined up on both the traditional (main) stage and the progressive stage that sits alongside Tunkhannock Creek, which meanders around the park and provides both recreation and great photo backdrops. On Friday and Saturday, the musical fun starts on the main stage right after breakfast and runs well into the evening on the progressive stage. Sunday's music begins with a gospel singalong and continues into the afternoon.

Headline acts on the main stage this year include the Malpass Brothers, the Little Roy and Lizzy Show, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass, the Larry Stephenson Band, Mason Porter, Country Current (the US Navy bluegrass band), and The Plate Scrapers.

In addition to music on the Main and Progressive stages both Friday and Saturday, there are many ongoing activities for family members of all ages, as well as shopping opportunities and delicious food at both ends of the park. Those new to the NEPA Bluegrass experience should be prepared to relax as they take in nature, great music and the friendship of like-minded people.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.nepabluegrass.com, and regular updates are posted on the NEPA Bluegrass Festival Facebook page. Free camping is available only to those who purchase weekend passes in advance, but guests who buy a weekend pass at the gate can camp at an additional fee. Day passes are also available.

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Shifting Schedules in Harford, With More Tabling

By Ted Brewster

Last month it was Robert Rex who couldn't make the scheduled meeting date, so it was put off a week. This time the Harford Township Supervisors' meeting was scheduled for May 17th, but Dustin Walker couldn't make that, so it was postponed 2 days, to the 19th. Turns out he couldn't make that either, but Robert Rex and Kyle Payne went ahead anyway. Mr. Walker has another conflict in June, so that meeting is also pushed back a week. And now it seems Mr. Walker may not be available much of the summer anyway, so the Supervisors are considering options for what Mr. Payne calls "R2D2" meetings, with Mr. Walker attending virtually … somehow. Got all that?

Like last month, a few agenda items ended up on the table, beginning with approval of last month's minutes. See, Mr. Rex wasn't at that meeting, so he can't comment on them, and Mr. Walker isn't here this time, and Mr. Payne can't approve them all by himself.

Then there was the Harford Fair's request for funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds allocated to the Township. They have asked for a total of $18,115, of which $15,000 would be for a new public address system that they say would enhance the safety of the event. Mr. Payne said the Township "can't do" that one, because it isn't clear that ARP funds can be used for such purposes. The question was tabled last month because Mr. Rex was absent. This time it was re-tabled: because Mr. Walker was absent, and to await this year's ARP distribution.

They also tabled consideration of a project to pump out the sewage tank at the Fairgrounds, forwarding a proposal that the Fair and the Township split the cost, which could be as much as $2,000. The Fair's sewage system has two pumps, both of which have now failed and must be replaced at the expense of the sewer system; new pumps have been ordered, but won't be available until July, so there is still time to consider cleaning out the tank before the Fair in late August. The sewer system engineers are concerned that something in the tank may have caused the second pump to fail, so emptying the tank is recommended.

They also re-tabled consideration of a tax credit program for the local fire company pending review by the Township's solicitor. Act 172 of 2016 offers both income and property tax credits for qualifying volunteers, and companies must define eligibility requirements. Gus Ferrara attended the meeting as chair of the fire company's committee that will oversee eligibility. The system they outline is more detailed than described (and tabled) last month, allotting points to a company member's status and activities with the organization. Mr. Ferrara said that his committee estimates about 20 members might be eligible for the program.

Mr. Rex and Mr. Payne did actually accomplish a few things. For one, they set the date for the annual "cleanup" program: the last week in June, June 27 to July 1. Last month Township Secretary Carolyn Jennings said that Bulldog Disposal of Springville might be contracted to handle the project, perhaps at the same price as last year. Because of the recent spike in fuel costs, the company has doubled its cost per load to $120.  So now the Township has to decide whether or not to do it with its own equipment and labor, and if so, how much to charge. Ms. Jennings said that about a half dozen people had already inquired about the program, but she didn't know how much they would be willing to pay. So, while they set the date, the other half of the issue (the price) is … tabled.

The Supervisors also agreed to purchase a framed photograph of Harford from Greg Cromer Aerial Photography to grace the Township's new office building, for $195.

And they gave their blessing to Eagle Scout hopeful Alex Empet to go ahead with his proposal to build a pavilion at the Harford village park (the ball field), which would be part of the park's major renovation project. The model he has in mind would cost about $16,000; concrete for the pad he said would be provided by the Masters company.  The Supervisors agreed to cover 25% of the cost ($4,000) as a down payment.  Raising the rest of the funds is part of Mr. Empet's Eagle Scout project.

Now remember, the June meeting is postponed a week, and is now scheduled for Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in the new Township building on Route 547, where you may be able to view Harford from the air.

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